Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Before Pink Ribbons: Activists, Doctors, and Patients in the Fight against Breast Cancer during the Twentieth Century
by Bell-Wilson, Chloe, M.A., California State University, Long Beach, 2019, 127; 27545995
Abstract (Summary)

Over the course of the twentieth century, breast cancer shifted from being a taboo subject to one openly discussed. Though historians have long recognized the importance of breast cancer as a lens through which to examine the intersection of gender, disease, and society, little attention has been paid to the activist movement that brought the disease into the spotlight of both culture and politics by the end of the century. From the inception of the American Society for the Control of Cancer (the predecessor to the American Cancer Society) in 1913 to the first Race for the Cure hosted by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 1983, women contributed their time and labor to overcoming the stigma surrounding the disease and worked to end its grip on women. In examining the long story of breast cancer activism, this thesis illuminates the changes and continuities in the movement. Using a combination of media sources and private correspondence, this work argues that women used breast cancer activism as an avenue through which to gain agency in a patriarchal medical world that typically denied them autonomy over their bodies and treatment. Finally, taking into account social status, privilege, and the context in which people lived, this thesis complicates the notion of linear progress in the work against the disease as conflict and power struggles came to the forefront of cancer discourse.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schrank, Sarah
Commitee: Luhr, Eileen, Cleary, Patricia
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: History
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 81/7(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Oncology, Womens studies, Public health
Keywords: American Cancer Society, Breast cancer, Cancer, Women's health movement
Publication Number: 27545995
ISBN: 9781392848661
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